Title IX Protects Pregnant Students

Prior to the enactment of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, teenage girls who got pregnant were excluded from most public schools. The prevailing notion at the time: They were setting a bad example for their peers.

According to the Women’s Educational Equity Act Equity Resource Center, “Twenty-five years of Title IX have kept school doors open for pregnant and parenting students, for whom education is the pathway to economic self-sufficiency. However, more work is necessary to ensure that pregnant and parenting teens continue their education.”

Under Title IX, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” That means schools receiving federal funds are prohibited from discriminating against students on the basis of pregnancy or marital status, and from discriminating against a parenting student on the basis of gender.

The law also requires schools to provide a pregnant student with an excused medical leave of absence and reinstate her to her previous status upon her return to school. And while school districts may operate separate programs for pregnant and parenting teens, such programs must be voluntary and offer instruction comparable to that provided non-pregnant students.

Yet, according to research by the center, which seeks to improve the education of girls and women in the United States, “Many schools continue to treat pregnant and parenting students as second-class citizens.” In 1993, for example, the St. Louis Public Schools had a written policy requiring pregnant students to attend a separate school. In addition, the center has found “more subtle” discrimination against pregnant girls. In some districts, for example, they are denied the right to do make-up work for missed class time, a policy that does not apply to students who miss school for other health reasons.

– P. P.